from Rādhikā-sāntvanam

Muddupalani
Indian
c. 1739 – 1790

 

If I ask her not to kiss me,
stroking on my cheeks
she presses my lips hard against hers.

If I ask her not to touch me,
stabbing me with her firm breasts
she hugs me.

If I ask her not to get too close
for it is not decorous,
she swears at me loudly.

If I tell her of my vow not
to have a woman in my bed,
she hops on
and begins the game of love.

Appreciative,
she lets me drink from her lips,
fondles me, talks on,
making love again and again.

How could I stay away
from her company?

From the Seashore

In honor of the Russian holiday, National Day, we present this work by the nation’s first female professional poet.

Anna Bunina
Russian
1774 – 1829

 

The shining sea
Seamless from the sky,
The quiet waves
Splashed upon the shore,
The gentle swells
Shivered just a little.

The sun is extinguished,
There is no moon,
Scarlet blaze
Glints in the west,
Birds in their nests,
Flocks in their roosts.

Everything suddenly shushed,
Everything in its place.

The room is still,
There is no rustling.
The children are cuddled
Modestly in the corners.

Lina touched
The harp strings:
The golden harp
Raised its voice;
Sounds in harmony
Sing with Lina.

Rosy flames
Shine from the fireplace;
The clear bright fire
Skips upon the coals;
The dark-gray smoke
Twists in a column.

The fierce flame
Scorches the soul;
The heart languishes,
Everything is desiccated.
Poison flows
In my veins.

Tears ran dry
In cloudy eyes,
Sighs stopped
The breast from heaving,
Speech freezes
On chilled lips!

Sea rise up!
Be a coffin for me!
Golden harp,
Strike like thunder!
Flame overflow,
Incinerate this poor woman!

The Six Bards

James MacPherson
Scots
1736 – 1796

 

Night is dull and dark,
The clouds rest on the hills;
No star with twinkling beam,
No moon looks from the skies.
I hear the blast in the wood,
But distant and dull I hear it.
The stream of the valley murmurs,
Low is its murmur too.
From the tree at the grave of the dead,
The lonely screech-owl groans.
I see a dim form on the plain,
‘Tis a ghost! it fades, it flies;
Some dead shall pass this way.
From the lowly hut of the hill
The distant dog is howling;
The stag lies by the mountain-well,
The hind is at his side;
She hears the wind in his horns,
She starts, but lies again.
The roe is in the cleft of the rock:
The heath-cock’s head beneath his wing.
No beast, no bird is abroad,
But the owl, and the howling fox;
She on the leafless tree,
He on the cloudy hill.
Dark, panting, trembling, sad,
The traveller has lost his way;
Through shrubs, through thorns he goes,
Beside the gurgling rills;
He fears the rock and the pool,
He fears the ghost of the night.
The old tree groans to the blast;
The falling branch resounds.
The wind drives the clung thorn
Along the sighing grass;
He shakes amid the night.
Dark, dusty, howling, is night,
Cloudy, windy, and full of ghosts;
The dead are abroad; my friends
Receive me from the night.

Hokku Poems in Four Seasons

We present this work in honor of Greenery Day.

Yosa Buson
Japanese
1716 – 1784

 

Spring

The year’s first poem done,
with smug self confidence
a haikai poet.

Longer has become the daytime;
a pheasant is fluttering
down onto the bridge.

Yearning for the Bygones

Lengthening days,
accumulating, and recalling
the days of distant past.

Slowly passing days,
with an echo heard here in a
corner of Kyoto.

The white elbow
of a priest, dozing,
in the dusk of spring.

Into a nobleman,
a fox has changed himself
early evening of spring.

The light on a candle stand
is transferred to another candle
spring twilight.

A short nap,
then awakening
this spring day has darkened.

Who is it for,
this pillow on the floor,
in the twilight of spring?

The big gateway’s heavy doors,
standing in the dusk of spring.

Hazy moonlight —
someone is standing
among the pear trees.

Blossoms on the pear tree,
lighten by the moonlight, and there
a woman is reading a letter.

Springtime rain — almost dark,
and yet today still lingers.

Springtime rain —
a little shell on a small beach,
enough to moisten it.

Springtime rain is falling,
as a child’s rag ball is soaking
wet on the house roof.

Summer

Within the quietness
of a lull in visitors’ absence,
appears the peony flower!

Peony having scattered, two
or three petals lie on one another.

The rain of May —
facing toward the big river, houses,
just two of them.

At a Place Called Kaya in Tanba

A summer river being crossed,
how pleasing,
with sandals in my hands!

The mountain stonecutter’s chisel;
being cooled in the clear water.

Grasses wet in the rain,
just after the festival cart passed by.

To my eyes how delightful
the fan of my beloved is,
in complete white.

A flying cuckoo,
over the Heian capital,
goes diagonally across the city.

Evening breeze —
water is slapping against
the legs of a blue heron.

An old well —
jumping at a mosquito,
the fish’s sound is dark.

Young bamboo trees —
at Hashimoto, the courtesan,
is she still there or not?

After having been fallen,
its image still stands —
the peony flower.

Stepping on the Eastern Slope

Wild roses in bloom —
so like a pathway in,
or toward, my home village.

With sorrow while coming upon the hill
—flowering wild roses.

Summer night ending so soon,
with on the river shallows still remains
the moon in a sliver.

Autumn

It penetrates into me;
stepping on the comb of my gone wife,
in the bedroom.

More than last year,
I now feel solitude;
this autumn twilight.

This being alone may even be a kind of happy
— in the autumn dusk.

Moon in the sky’s top,
clearly passes through this
poor town street.

This feeling of sadness —
a fishing string being blown by the autumn wind.

Winter

Let myself go to bed;
New Year’s Day is only a matter
for tomorrow.

Camphor tree roots are quietly getting wet,
in the winter rainy air.

A handsaw is sounding,
as if from a poor one,
at midnight in this winter.

Old man’s love affair;
in trying to forget it,
a winter rainfall.

In an old pond,
a straw sandal is sinking
— it is sleeting.

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

We present this work in honor of Palm Sunday.

Thomas Gray
English
1716 – 1771

 

The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow’r
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wand’ring near her secret bow’r,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mould’ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
The swallow twitt’ring from the straw-built shed,
The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire’s return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke:
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye Proud, impute to These the fault,
If Memory o’er their Tomb no Trophies raise,
Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flatt’ry soothe the dull cold ear of death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre.

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Rich with the spoils of time did ne’er unroll;
Chill Penury repress’d their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village Hampden that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.

Th’ applause of list’ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation’s eyes,

Their lot forbade: nor circumscribed alone
Their glowing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse’s flame.

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

Yet ev’n these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Their name, their years, spelt by th’ unletter’d muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.

For who, to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e’er resign’d,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing ling’ring look behind?

On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
Ev’n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
Ev’n in our Ashes live their wonted Fires.

For thee, who, mindful of th’ unhonour’d dead,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,

Haply some hoary-headed Swain may say,
‘Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.

‘There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

‘Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Mutt’ring his wayward fancies he would rove,
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or cross’d in hopeless love.

‘One morn I miss’d him on the custom’d hill,
Along the heath and near his fav’rite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

‘The next with dirges due in sad array
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne.
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn:’

The Epitaph

Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A Youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frown’d not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy mark’d him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heav’n did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Mis’ry all he had, a tear,
He gain’d from Heav’n (‘twas all he wish’d) a friend.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
(There they alike in trembling hope repose,)
The bosom of his Father and his God.

In the Garden

Fitnat Hanim
Turkish
1725 – 1780

 

In the garden, the roses were all bewildered as they watched your cheek
Jealous of your lovelocks the hyacinths were all distraught

We deserved one attractive glance, but alas, what to do
Our bosom is constantly the target of eyelash-arrows

Oh you with rosebud lip, I imagined your crimson cheek
And it became the envy of every rose in the dwelling of my memory

You give savor to the party, oh lovely mine of salt,
For the cup of wine is but a salt-bowl reflecting your ruby lip

Oh Fitnat, when that sweet mouth begins to speak alluringly,
Blessed by abundant speech the world all becomes a field of sugarcane

An Hymn to Humanity

In honor of National Freedom Day, we present this work by a poet who had her freedom taken from her.

Phillis Wheatley
American
1753 – 1784

 

I

Lo! for this dark terrestrial ball
Forsakes his azure-paved hall
A prince of heav’nly birth!
Divine Humanity behold,
What wonders rise, what charms unfold
At his descent to earth!

II

The bosoms of the great and good
With wonder and delight he view’d,
And fix’d his empire there:
Him, close compressing to his breast,
The sire of gods and men address’d,
“My son, my heav’nly fair!

III

“Descend to earth, there place thy throne;
“To succour man’s afflicted son
“Each human heart inspire:
“To act in bounties unconfin’d
“Enlarge the close contracted mind,
“And fill it with thy fire.”

IV

Quick as the word, with swift career
He wings his course from star to star,
And leaves the bright abode.
The Virtue did his charms impart;
Their G—! then thy raptur’d heart
Perceiv’d the rushing God:

V

For when thy pitying eye did see
The languid muse in low degree,
Then, then at thy desire
Descended the celestial nine;
O’er me methought they deign’d to shine,
And deign’d to string my lyre.

VI

Can Afric’s muse forgetful prove?
Or can such friendship fail to move
A tender human heart?
Immortal Friendship laurel-crown’d
The smiling Graces all surround
With ev’ry heav’nly Art.

Auld Lang Syne

We present this work in honor of New Year’s Eve.

Robert Burns
Scots
1759 – 1796

 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

For auld land syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

For auld land syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit
Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld land syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us briad hae roar’d
Sin’ auld lang syne.

For auld land syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.

For auld land syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

A Receipt for Wooing

We present this work in honor of the 225th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Alison Cockburn
Scots
1712 – 1794

 

If your lass is coquettish and frisky,
Make up to her easy and briskly;
If she frown on ye, turn on your heel,
Make love to another, your heart to recover;
You’ll quickly discover she would keep you her lover,
Tho’ her heart be as hard as the steel.

She will try all her tricks to entice ye,
Sometimes sweet, sometimes sour, sometimes spicy;
Affect all these humours yourself,
See that ye vex her, be sure to perplex her,
Provoke her and coax her, roast her and toast her,
She’s as sure in your pouch as your pelf.

If your lassie is modest and shy,
Watch every cast of her eye;
If she blushes, she’s halflings your own;
Approach by degrees, her hand ye may seize,
And give it a squeeze, then down on your knees,
And prefer her to kings, or their crown.

If she answer you no way but flying,
Depend on’t she will be complying,
So follow as fast as you can.
But if coolly she stay, I’m afraid she’ll say nay,
Pray pack up your heart and be gone,
For ye may leave her to some other man.

Monument

We present this work in honor of the Russian holiday, National Unity Day.

Garvriil Derzhavin
Russian
1743 – 1816

 

I built myself a monument, eternal and miraculous,
It’s higher than the Pyramids, than metal it is harder;
Swift winds and thunder cannot knock it down
The flight of time cannot demolish it.

Thus I won’t really die! The part of me that’s largest
Will baffle death, and will escape decay,
My fame will grow, and never wither,
As long as Slavs are honored in this world.

And word of me shall spread from the White Sea to the Black,
Where Volga, Don, Neva and Ural rivers flow,
Each member of the countless tribes will know
How from obscurity I found my way to fame,

By daring first in lively Russian speech
To celebrate the virtues of Felitsa,
To talk of God with intimate simplicity,
And with a smile announce the truth to kings.

O Muse! take pride in your well-earned rewards,
Disdain all those who show disdain for you,
And with an easy and unhurried hand,
With dawn eternal crown your brow.